From retail and restaurants to tech and media, contractors to coworking spaces, large, small, and everything in between, a diverse array of businesses call Alexandria home. In our blog series, Growing in Alexandria, we will sit down to talk with businesses around the City to learn more about who they are, what they do, and why they love it here. Have an idea for a business to talk to? Email us!
Alexandria is home to a myriad of different industries—one of our largest is comprised of associations and non-profit organizations. For our March edition of Growing in Alexandria, we sat down with Sheree Anne Kelly, President and CEO of the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives.
AEDP: Please tell us a little about your organization.
Sheree Anne: It’s a pleasure to talk about ACCE. We’re the association representing chambers of commerce across the U.S. and around the world. We have approximately 1,500 member organizations, which translates to around 10,000 individuals involved in our work. Our job is to help chambers be as successful as they can be. We assist our members via management resources, original thought leadership, benchmarking, professional development and customized assistance.
Some topics that are critical to chamber professionals (therefore areas where we track best practices and trends) include economic development, workforce and talent pipeline, public policy, and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Chamber executives are catalysts in their communities. They help solve their regions’ greatest challenges. The outcomes are significant, and ultimately chambers ensure that their towns are optimal places to live, work and visit.
AEDP: Can you talk about how you got started in your career field?
Sheree Anne: I’ve been working in national associations for 20+ years. My first job was at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, so this position is a true full-circle experience for me. I’ve held various roles in fundraising, government affairs, communications and organizational management which all contribute to my current job. Volunteering on non-profit boards of directors also helped me develop leadership capabilities beyond my day job. Along the way I picked up a Master in Government degree and an MBA which rounded out my skills.
AEDP: What would you say is the most rewarding aspect of running the association?
Sheree Anne: Our members are community warriors, so if we can help make their jobs easier, or give them counsel that leads to success, it’s a win for everyone. This job creates a ripple effect. We help individuals who then make a difference in their communities. Our work is the ultimate example of think global, act local. When I hear an example of how we help make that happen, it’s hands-down the best part of my job.
AEDP: What is the next big project or goal you’re working on?
Sheree Anne: We’ve just unveiled our 2019-2022 strategic plan. Implementing that is the core focus for our team. Some highlights include:
- A greater focus on forward-leaning trends: We’d like to stay a few steps ahead of major forces impacting communities, businesses and chambers of commerce, so
- our members can be best prepared to manage through inevitable change.
- Chamber stories: Our association will focus more on sharing chamber success stories, so that we serve as a national platform and megaphone for the meaningful work chambers do every day to make communities stronger.
- Diversity, equity and inclusion: In lieu of parking this effort in a side project or department, this is a lens that must cut across everything we do from hiring and governance to professional development and outreach.
There are many other aspects to the plan, including a revamp of our communications and evaluating programs and services. It’s an exciting time at ACCE and equally exciting for the chamber profession.
AEDP: Finally, would you share the best piece of professional advice you have received?
Sheree Anne: I grew up in an environment where I was taught to work hard, embrace an entrepreneurial spirit and be authentic. That foundation has carried me far and still serves me well today. What I’ve learned along the way is that my greatest lessons come when I stretch myself to try things I’ve never tried before. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, but failures teach valuable lessons that make me stronger for the next challenge.
For me, that translates to the simple idea of always having something scary on my calendar. With every challenge, I gain new tools and confidence to tackle the next big thing. The more I embrace scary undertakings, the more I find that positive opportunities come my way.
To learn more about the Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, visit their website or stop in to see them at 1330 Braddock Place, Suite 300.